By Maryam Adrangi, Council of Canadians, May 9th, 2012
Over 500 people gathered in David Pecaut Square in Toronto for a water ceremony that led into a march to the Enbridge AGM. Members of the Yinka Dene Alliance, a group of First Nations which have banned the Enbridge pipeline from their territory, as well as supporters have traveled to Toronto on the Freedom Train to send a clear message to company shareholders: The Northern Gateway Pipeline is not allowed on their land.
The numbers of supporters and the energy of the rally is a clear sign that opposition to this pipeline extends further than just along the proposed pipeline route. There is concern, solidarity, and resistance across Canada. Activists from all over southern Ontario attended the protest and included Council of Canadians chapter activists and allies from Sarnia, Guelph, London, Hamilton, Peterborough, and Ottawa attended the rally with banners and signs saying “No To Enbridge Oil.”
Indigenous leaders entered the shareholder meeting to make sure their message was sent to shareholders inside. Meanwhile, drummers from the YDA and a local samba band kept energy high at the rally in front of the Meridien Hotel, where the AGM was being held. Ta`Kaiya Blaney, an 11-year old of the Sliammon First Nation spoke during the rally saying to supporters: “We can’t live in an ocean of oil and drink out of a polluted river.”
She continued to send a message to the crowd:
Enbridge’s must be reminded that oil won’t be there forever. There are future generations to think of. And what will they give us? Mountains shaved by trees? Oceans destroyed by tankers? Our answer to [Enbridge] is as simple as ‘NO’”
She followed her speech by singing Shallow Waters.
The Northern Gateway Pipeline will cross an estimated 1,000 sensitive rivers and streams, including sensitive salmon spawning habitat, streams for drinking water, and rugged terrain which means that any pipeline failure could devastate health and livelihoods and be difficult to clean up. The export pipeline leading to the Kitimat Port would also lead to increased tanker traffic off BC’s west coast. The port is known to be windy and narrow, a precarious environment for oil tankers. A spill or accident would devastate ecologically sensitive areas, fishing communities’ livelihood, health, and water for local residents.
Furthermore, Enbridge has a dismal track record. The company has had 610 spills, breaks, or fractures between the years of 1999 and 2008. This averages to over one accident each week in Enbridge pipelines in which none of the contaminated regions can be fully recovered.
In short, the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline and associated tanker project can cause serious and irreversible damage. In the recent Fraser Declaration signed by the YDA and many other First Nations, communities have stated that “they will not allow the health and destruction of fish, animals, plants, people and ways of life to be risked.”
An Op-Ed published last week in the Edmonton Journal by Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation states:
From a First Nations perspective, it doesn’t matter whether we stand on the coast of B.C. or in the heart of the oilsands - our struggle is largely one and the same. We don’t want our lands, our rights, or our people to be sidelined and destroyed by irresponsible development.
The YDA and supporters have been holding events such as panel discussions, meals, and ceremonies across the country on their way to Toronto. Last night’s “Freedom Train Solidarity Concert” was held here in Toronto, bringing hundreds of people together for the last stop on the Freedom Train.
Members of the YDA have also been gathering signatures for the Freedom Train 2012 Petition. The petition states:
We call on Parliament to recognize the decision that has been taken by the Yinka Dene Alliance and other First Nations to ban tar sands pipelines and tankers in their lands and waters – including the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline and tanker project.
To sign on to the Freedom Train 2012 Petition, click here.